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What is ‘honour’? How ‘honour’ can lead to violence against women Joanne Payton. IKWRO, HBVAnet & Cardiff University
What is ‘honour’? Honour (noun) Great respect, high esteem; the quality of knowing what is morally right (OED) All societies have ideas about reputation
HeshuYunes: 2003First crime to be described in relation to ‘honour’ in the UK • 16 years old London schoolgirl • In a relationship with classmate • Father took her back to Iraq for forced marriage • Subjected her to virginity test • Returned to the UK • Stabbed 17 times • Killer’s sentence reduced due to ‘irreconcilable cultural differences’
‘Honour’ is the control of women:All family (and sometimes community) are involved • In a study in Turkey (Sır 2005): • 37% say that an adulterous woman should be killed • 60% say that family members are responsible for policing female relatives • 10% say primary role of the community is surveillance of women. “If I were married…the girl whom I married would be my honour. My sister is my honour too, so are my relatives, the daughter of my aunt and the daughter of my uncle are also my honour”
Empirical research into the definition of HBV Finding: Middle Eastern women use the language of ‘honour’ when the perpetrators are agnates HBV is emically defined by kinship relations
Collectivity Ghazala Khan was shot and killed by her brother in Denmark. Nine of her relatives were found to have taken part in a conspiracy to carry out this murder.
Characteristics of families where there is HBV • More non-urban backgrounds; • Stronger belief that parents should arrange marriages; • Stronger belief that honour is about ‘the control of women’; • Stronger belief that couples should not get to know each other before marriage; • Greater restrictions on relationships, such as insistence on marriage within a particular family, caste or community • High levels of control: house arrest, community and family surveillance
Triggers:These kind of things can be perceived as ‘shameful’ • Reporting Domestic Abuse • Smoking cigarettes or drugs • Perceived inappropriate make-up or dress • Running away from home • Rape, sexual harassment or assault • The existence of a boyfriend or other ‘non-approved’ relationship • Pregnancy before or outside marriage • Interfaith, intercaste, or interethnic relationships • Rejecting a forced or arranged marriage • Leaving a spouse and/ or children • Seeking divorce • Seeking child custody • Kissing, holding hands or other intimacy in a public place • Sexual relations, sexual integrity and behaviour prior to marriage, within marriage, post divorce or when a widow • Homosexuality – being ‘outed’ or ‘coming out’ to others
If you think you are at risk… Don’t blame yourself Don’t delay seeking help • Go to the police or whatever service you can access • Look for help with an NGO with experience in dealing with these issues • Think about an escape plan • See if you can get hold of a ‘secret phone’ for emergencies • Get counselling when you can and build a support network
If someone comes to you with a problem • Listen to the woman or girl’s wishes and be supportive. • Don’t make assumptions or negative statements about her ‘culture’ • Always assume they are telling you the truth. It may seem unbelievable to you that families would kill family members for what seem like trivial transgressions, but it does happen. • Seek advice from the Community Safety Unit, Forced Marriage Unit or from a specialist organisation. If dealing with a girl under the age of 18 refer to child protection procedures. • Reassure her about confidentiality. • Arrange a way for to contact the victim discreetly. Consider using a code-word. • Establish long-term support
What not to do • NEVER send the person away or tell her to go home – you may be the only person they have told and the one chance they have to get help. • DO NOT discuss the case with the victim’s family or members of their community, as this can put the victim in more danger. • NEVER use interpreters from the family or community and DO NOT attempt mediation. • DO NOT assume the women in the family will protect the victim. • DO NOT disclose the victim’s whereabouts to anyone who does not need them for the purposes of her protection, and especially not to any members of her family or community.
Fourteen-year-old Bayan faced violence from her brother, mother and father for non-sexual friendships with boys in her class at school: her father was violent to the entire family and beat them all frequently. He attempted to force Bayan into marriage with his brother’s son. At this point Bayan left the family home and went into foster care but remained at risk from violence as her father perceived her defection as shameful, requiring long term protection measures since he was determined to find her. ‘Classic’ HBV Familial violence for a supposed transgression by a relative, very similar to the case of HeshuYones
Khalida, who was studying in the UK, became involved with an abusive and controlling boyfriend. When she ended the relationship he retaliated by showing photographs of her in compromising positions to her brother. Although deeply shocked, the brother attacked the boyfriend rather than taking any reprisal against his sister; while Khalida’s father visited her in the UK and expressed his disappointment and disapproval, she did not feel in any danger from him or other relatives, and eventually returned to her country of origin without incident. Indirect HBV Abusive partners can use the threat of ‘dishonour’ as a form of psychological abuse: doesn’t always work!
Hana’s husband attempted to kill her and was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced for this crime. Her brothers stated an intention to stage a jail-break, and when this fell through, they joined with several of her husband’s relatives pursuing her and her four children across several countries with the intention of performing an ‘honour’ killing. Collective violence Faryal had been separated from a wealthy and well-connected abuser for over eight years, yet over this time he maintained a regime of stalking and death threats against her. Faryal had been injured in a hit and run incident a year previously; she recognised the car as belonging to an associate of her husband. Collectivity can cause problems -- even where a person does not talk about ‘honour’ – Faryal did not describe her crime as ‘honour’-related.
Summary • Honour crimes are committed by the victim’s own family, often acting in collaboration, in order to restore their reputation in the community. • They have distinctive perpetration patterns and victim profiles. • They are very high risk and escalate very quickly. • Family solidarities make them very complex to address.
Joanne Payton Information and Research Officer Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation Joannepayton.me.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 07892 679472